PuSh Festival: Seattle choreographer Zoe Scofield dances through A Crack in Everything

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A Crack in Everything is a surreal dance spectacle that warps time and perspective. Wildly costumed dancers send multiple reflections across a glossy vinyl floor, and appear in ghostly double in video projections. The real and the imaginary blur. In every way, it is a nonlinear, mind-bending piece—but its inspiration lies in two events that are rooted starkly in Seattle choreographer Zoe Scofield’s reality.

The first came during her childhood, when her father had a serious car accident. The “crack” that she and video artist Juniper Shuey—her husband and artistic partner—refer to is the one between cause and effect.

“I was very young and it was this moment in our lives that really separated things into ‘before’ and ‘after’,” Scofield explains from Atlanta, where the dance duo, called zoe/juniper, has a residency before coming to the PuSh fest. “I think everybody has these incidents in their life—that there’s everything before this incident and everything after. And you see everything through this lens from then on.

“You always think, ‘If this had not happened, what would have been?’ So you fold and refold time in your desire to shift time.”

Her father’s second car crash also made a dramatic impression on the way Scofield perceives time and reality—and for this one, she was 16 and in the passenger seat. “It took forever before he hit the tree and there was this deadly quiet. It was really slow and pulled-out for me,” she recalls. “But in his recollection of it, it’s really loud and dark and he couldn’t see anything. And that’s both of us remembering the same thing. So what is real and what’s not?”

What both incidents seem to have ingrained in Scofield is that life has infinitely shifting perspectives—and she tries to capture that sensation through the dreamily multilayered, visually dazzling world of her dance. “None of our work is linear,” she says. “It’s this constellation of events, and I really feel that’s how we perceive life anyway.”

The show’s visual elements are as important as the choreography, but this hybrid language is something Scofield only started developing in 2005, after she met Shuey. Before that, she had studied ballet and modern styles, later working with Prometheus Dance, Bill James, and others. But after moving to Seattle, she had stopped dancing.

“When I met Juniper, he was making his art and he was like, ‘Why aren’t you making work?’ ” she explains. “He could see that I was really a dancer and choreographer and it was kind of eating me up that I was not doing what I love doing.

“Then working with him became a different framework to make dance in and in which to see it. Why he and I were so drawn together as collaborators was we both had an innate and learned understanding of each other’s medium. I’m not a computer person and can’t work with projections or anything like that, but I am a very visual person and had taken a lot of art classes and photography classes,” she says, adding that Shuey had worked extensively in physical theatre.

The result is that Scofield, along with the piece’s other four dancers, has to inhabit a fully conceived universe full of sights and sounds on-stage—a mysterious realm where time and perspective are fluid. And that’s not always the easiest thing.

“Sometimes it takes about an hour to do hair and makeup, and the floor has vinyl on top of it so it becomes a very liquidy and reflective surface—it can be very sticky or very slippery,” she says with a small laugh. “It’s like being in a complete world.” 

A Crack in Everything is at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts at SFU Woodward’s, on Tuesday and Wednesday (January 15 and 16), as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

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